Some much-needed competition is being injected into the ASUC general election. With this week’s announcement that the SQUELCH! student political party will run all serious candidates, the 2013 election is, thankfully, shaping up to depart from the predictable cycle of late.
Historically, SQUELCH! has ran primarily satirical candidates, though one serious contender from the party usually gets elected to the ASUC Senate. Now, the party has decided to challenge the dominant forces of Student Action and CalSERVE — long the two most influential ASUC parties. The quality of the SQUELCH! candidates is so far unclear, as only presidential candidate Jason Bellet has been publicly announced. Still, the party’s decision carries significant ramifications for the rest of the election.
First of all, a serious slate from SQUELCH! could go a long way toward reversing the formulaic and uninspired themes that have dominated the ASUC elections in recent years. The party demographics of the last three senates have been identical, and candidates’ platforms are rarely, if ever, innovative. The presence of a competitive SQUELCH! slate will hopefully force the other parties to distinguish themselves and prove their worth.
More importantly, students deserve a choice. No candidate should be elected solely based on what communities he or she represents or what party he or she comes from. Those who win should be the candidates who offer the best ideas for serving the entire student body. In the end, the SQUELCH! candidates may not significantly alter the makeup of the senate, but their presence should at least significantly raise the level of competition among senate candidates.
Despite their notable presence, the SQUELCH! candidates face some major obstacles. As a third party with traditionally only one elected representative, SQUELCH! lacks the institutional connections of its competitors. Without the kind of historical community ties held by Student Action, CalSERVE and even the Cooperative Movement party, SQUELCH! may encounter difficulty spreading its message. To help remedy this, the party’s senate candidates must have strong platforms that can stand up to those offered by the other parties.
Even without an institutionalized party machine, SQUELCH! could have another objectively positive effect on the election: increasing voter turnout. While last year’s showing was markedly high — about 12,600 students cast votes — it was still far below potential. After all, if the same result happens every time, what could motivate droves of students to vote?
Aside from this, SQUELCH! has a chance to not only challenge the supremacy of other parties, but it could also introduce new communities and perspectives to the ASUC. Consequently, this could be another factor encouraging more students to come out and vote.
No matter the result, SQUELCH! has a real opportunity to change the pattern of the election. Student Action and CalSERVE may very well retain their influence, but SQUELCH! will hopefully make this election a real challenge. And that’s a good thing — for everyone involved.